One common practice utilized by catfish producers to increase production is to include some stocker size fish, 0.1 pound and larger, when stocking fingerlings. The stocker size fish will most likely reach market size during the same growing season, so some income is generated.

The disadvantage, of course, is that stocker fish generally cost more than fingerlings.

However, in some instances, producers are able to purchase the stocker fish at costs much below the current market price, making this an attractive option.

How much feed will be needed to grow the stocker fish to market size and what is the feed cost per fish? The accompanying table was developed to answer the questions.

The table includes fish from 3 to 14 inches and examines the quantity and cost of feed needed to grow fish to market size of 1.5 pounds at an assumed feed conversion ratio of 2.5, and feed prices at $230, $250, and $270 per ton, or 11.5 cents, 12.5 cents, and 13.5 cents per pound, respectively. The table does not take into account interest or other costs associated with feeding. Only one feed conversion ratio is used in the calculation.

Using multiple feed conversion ratios would make the table difficult to read.

The table shows that a 3-inch fish weighs 0.009 pound and will need an estimated 3.73 pounds of feed to reach market size of 1.5 pounds. This will cost the producer 42.9 cents to 50.4 cents depending on feed price.

The current market price for 3-inch fingerlings is approximately 3 cents each. At a harvest size of 1.5 pounds, this fish will be worth $1.20 when sold to

the processor at 80 cents per pound. Feed cost (42.9 to 50.4 cents per fish, from the table) plus the cost of fingerlings (3 cents per fish) comes to 45.9 to 53.4 cents per fish.

This scenario shows good profitability, with fish harvested at 44.4 to 49.4 cents per pound above costs invested for feed and fingerlings. As an example, the 49.4 cents per pound was calculated as follows: $(1.20 - 0.429 - 0.03)/1.5 pound.

Use the table to calculate feed costs for growout of fish purchased at various sizes.

For example, a 14-inch fish weighs approximately 0.85 pound, and will require 1.63 additional pounds of feed to reach market size. Feed cost (18.7 to 22.0 cents per fish) plus stockers (59.5 cents per fish at current market price) comes to 78.2 to 81.5 cents per fish.

In this case the profit margin is 25.7 to 27.9 cents per pound above the cost of feed and stockers. This is not nearly as profitable as purchasing and growing the smaller fish, but with fish in the pond for less time it is somewhat less risky.

Now consider fish purchased at a “fire sale” price. If 14-inch stockers are purchased at only 50 cents per pound, they cost 42.5 cents each. Fed to market size, they would cost you 61.2 to 64.5 cents each, so the margin of profit will be 37 to 39 cents per pound at harvest.

Again, this is not as profitable but not as risky as growout of smaller fish.

Producers are invited to contact me for assistance with evaluation of other scenarios.